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Decolonization

This working group takes its starting point from the premise that exploration of colonialism and decolonization within the university – the institutionalization of these questions within the university – has had significant effects on the conclusions, premises, and politics that have been put forward. Above all, the explicitly political and deeply transformative character of anti-colonial and decolonial struggles has often been pushed to the side. A terrain of thinking that was originally linked to the transformative decolonization struggles of Africa, Asia, and settler societies like Canada has tended to become narrowed, pacified, and professionalized. “Decolonization,” as Tuck and Yang (2012) suggest, has tended become a “metaphor.”

The work that we wish to explore through this working group, then, remains closely connected to the ongoing struggles of colonized subjects/communities; aims to produce work that could potentially feed into these struggles; and recognizes that “decolonization” is an inherently radical, transformative geopolitical project.

Within this broad field of work, we are particularly interested in the question of decolonization in settler societies like Canada. This is a more complicated question than it might seem, and one of the aims of this working group is to refine its framing. For one thing, to explore decolonization in a settler society is necessarily to consider the question of land: that is, the returning of the land (or some significant part of it) to its original, indigenous inhabitants. Bracketing the “land question” in discussions of indigenous rights, as Dene scholar Glen Coulthard (2007) has pointed out, simply reinscribes colonial domination and obstructs an important pathway toward peace and justice. Decolonization also involves a reconstruction or “resurgence” of indigenous ways of life upon the land, a project that Anishinaabe scholar and poet Leanne Simpson has helped considerably to advance in recent years (see Simpson, 2013). At the same time, this exploration needs to recognize in some way the existence of other “subjects of empires,” namely the populations that have migrated to the settler society from other colonized contexts. As Tuck and Yang (2012, p. 7) point out: “decolonization in a settler context is fraught because empire, settlement, and internal colony [i.e., communities of colonized subjects from other parts of the empire] have no spatial separation.” Thinking through these issues of sovereignty, resurgence, and migration is a central preoccupation of this working group.

The group's activities in the 2014-15 academic year have included reading Audra Simpson's Mohawk Interruptus; Leanne Simpson's Islands of Decolonial Love and Dancing on Our Turtle's Back; and Glen Coulthard's Red Skin, White Masks. We have also organized two major public events: a lecture by Leanne Simpson on January 29, and a lecture by Glen Coulthard on March 12.

Organizer

Ted Rutland, Geography, Planning and Environment

Members
  • Rachel Berger, History
  • Kevin Gould, Geography, Planning, and Environmen
  • Gada Mahrouse, Simone de Beauvoir Institute
  • Ted Rutland, Geography, Planning and Environment
Works studied
  • Coulthard, Glen (2007) Subjects of Empire: Indigenous Peoples and the “Politics of Recognition” in Canada, Contemporary Political Theory, 6: 437-460.
  • Simpson, Leanne (2013) Islands of Decolonial Love. Winnipeg, MB: Arbiter Ring Publishing. 
  • Tuck, Eve, and K. Wayne Yang (2012) Decolonization is Not a Metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, and Society, 1(1): 1-40.
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